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40 Annual Members Exhibition at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center

"Shell" by Marissa Lehner
"Trash Quilt" by Ani Hoover

Time and Place

The annual members show has become a staple of the arts community. Offering a chance to hang their work on the white gallery walls is one way to entice renewals or first-time registrations. These eclectic events are also a refreshing break from the focus of curated or juried exhibitions. The art viewing public inclined to submit work to these shows are many of the same people who frequent art openings around town. Some exhibit often—others are showing for the first time. Most are somewhere in-between. Hallwalls has a 40-year legacy dedicated to supporting the creation and presentation of new work in visual, media, performing, and literary arts. They continue to encourage freedom of expression and critical engagement with issues relevant to the arts and society. One hundred forty-two entries reflect a full range of artistic expression that has been masterfully puzzled together by John Massier.

Musician Brian Eno originated a concept counter to the notion of the lone talented genius who stands apart from the rest. Instead, “scenius,” describes the power generated by a group of artists who gather in one place at one time and the cross-pollination that infiltrates their work. The art-making public in 2014 Buffalo is just such a rising scenius, as evidenced by the work on view at Hallwalls. Each piece signals its own frequency that adds to an overall hum, much like Eno’s ambient sound—or the drone of an opening night crowd.

Sculptural pieces hold the center of the main gallery. Marissa Lehner’s Shell, is an organic replica of carved and layered cardboard. Scott Bye’s precariously stacked wood chair structure, Lapse, appear to magically stand up. The walls are stacked with two-dimensional works. Messages telegraph in Eric Magnuson’s Inspired by a True Story text panel and Nelson Bradley’s Event Prop kite with words “No Bees No Food.” Painters are plentiful and all manner of process is on view, such as the spare abstract, Red Edge, from Eileen Pleasure O’Brien and realistic portraiture, Where We Is, from Dennis Bertram. A textile panel, Country Suiting, from The Lavender Hinge features their signature over-sized buttonhole. Drive Thru, by Eric H., is an exploration of that familiar iconography in ballpoint pen drawings on index cards. Dimensional snakes slither over the surface of Polly Little’s oil-painted papier mache panel, Frankenrat. Numerous examples of photography and video are also on view. Esther Neisen’s light box transparency, Slide, is actually a collage image cut from exposed film. Her insect subject is reminiscent of the 1950s plastic Cooties game part. More recycled material turns up in Ani Hoover’s transparent pillow heart, titled Trash Quilt #1.

There are one hundred thirty-one other works worthy of a look. Deconstructed, repurposed, conceptual, expressive, traditional, and kitch—no single trend in subject, medium, or approach dominates the creative mix. These are noisy times for artists who seek to voice their expressions. Art critic Suzi Gablik writes of the meaning found as we receive continuous feedback from the ambient situation of our lives: “The world is a cat’s cradle of interconnection rather than a set of isolated fragments.” Individual artworks in this show seem to shine in relation to all the others.

The show remains on view at through August 29 with a closing reception that evening.

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